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The language situation

Indonesia is a multilingual society. There are more than 250 regional languages in use in addition to the national language Bahasa Indonesia. The majority of the regional languages are members of the Austronesian language family. Bahasa Indonesia is a variety of Malay and therefore also an Austronesian language.

The use of Bahasa Indonesia and the regional languages is triggered by the context of the communication situation. Regional languages are generally used in informal situations, whereas Bahasa Indonesia is the means of communication in formal speech. Besides, Bahasa Indonesia is more or less exclusively used for interethnic communication.

This results in a diglossic language situation. Regional languages are used for local discourse and informal communication. Speakers tend to switch to Bahasa Indonesia for more formal communication and supra local discourse.

The majority of the regional languages in the project area belong to the Kaili-Pamona language group, which in turn is a sub-group of the Austronesian language family. "Ethnologue" (www.ethnologue.com) shows the following family tree for the Kaili-Pamona sub group (numbers in brackets refer to the existing numbers of languages belonging to each unit):

Austronesian (1262)

Malayo-Polynesian (1239)

Western Malayo-Polynesian (531)

Sulawesi (113)

Central-Sulawesi (46)

West Central (41)

Kaili-Pamona (15)

According to Ethnologue Kaili-Pamona consists of 15 languages. This group is again subdivided into Kaili, which consists of 9 languages and Pamona which consists of 6 languages. Languages of the Kaili group are Baras, Lindu, Kaili DaŽa, Kaili Ledo, Moma, Uma, Sarudu Topoiyo and Sedoa. The Pamona group consists of Pamona, Besoa, Bada, Rampi, Napu and Tombelala. Most of these languages are subdivided into "dialects" (see www.ethnologue.com), although the term dialect is linguistically not very useful. Kaili-Ledo, for example, (250,000 speakers) is divided into the dialects of Ledo (Palu), Doi, Ado, Edo, Tado, Tara (Parigi), Rai, RaioIja and Taa. Other languages consist likewise of many different dialects. In addition, many languages of this language sub group do have different names. Napu, for example, is also known as Pekurehua, Sedoa as Tawaeha and Uma as Pipikoro. The described variation in name and dialectal form shows that until now no extensive data on the language in the project area has been accumulated. There is also only little scientific work on the Kaili-Pamona sub group language listed in "Ethnologue" which verify this assumption. Still, the high variation within the Kaili-Pamona subgroup can be taken as fact. The high language variation is further increased by the national geographic composition of the project area, which used to impede easy contact between the villages. As a result, different varieties of one language are not mutual intelligible between speakers of the same language. This is true, for instance, for Kaili Ledo, Uma and Moma. Yet, there is no reliable data available so far.

However, increasing mobility and the growing use of Bahasa Indonesia change the language situation in the project area dramatically. In cities, like the provincial capital of Central Sulawesi, Palu, Bahasa Indonesia is already in use for informal communication, where traditionally regional languages have been used. This development is also more and more true for non-urban communication. Increasing mobility and growing contact between different villages has triggered the increasing use of the national language Bahasa Indonesia as a means of communication. As a result an increased number of varieties of Bahasa Indonesia and the regional languages are noticeable, due to borrowing. Further change in the language situation has been triggered by internal migration. Migrants from Java, Bali, Southsulawesi and other parts of the archipelago, use their own language upon arrival in the region. In Tonggoa, for example, a village at the North Eastern border of the National Park 13 different languages are in use today.

This in turn leads to a very complex language distribution in non-urban surroundings. There are villages, like Sedoa, where there is only one language in use, i.e. Bahasa Sedoa, which is not related to any other language in the area. Bahasa Sedoa in itself is very homogenous and there are no noticeable influences by further regional languages or by the national language.

In other villages there exists one variety of a local language, which is also in use in the surrounding villages (like Bahasa Kulawi Moma in Toro). The influence of Bahasa Indonesia on these languages depends largely on the mobility of the village population and how close the next urban centre is. Open societies tend to except the increasing use of Bahasa Indonesia and to incorporate part of the vocabulary of Bahasa Indonesia into the local language. On the other hand, there is also an increasing use of "old" local language vocabulary noticeable which replaces borrowed Bahasa Indonesia vocabulary, to strengthen the local culture.

In some areas, like the Besoa Valley, Bahasa Indonesia is about to be the major language for intra and inter village communication. Traditionally there are different regional mutually non-intelligible languages existing in the villages belonging to the Besoa Valley. The increasing contact between the villages has led to the acceptance of Bahasa Indonesia as the preferable means of communication.

In some villages different languages are in use side by side. Tonggoa, which has been mentioned above, can be taken as an example. Due to intra and inter island migration villages like Tonggoa present the most heterogeneous language situation in the project area.

All in all, the use of one regional language or different regional languages in one village and the use of Bahasa Indonesia as one increasing means of communication within one village differ from village to village. This, in turn, has to be taken into account, on the interpretation of local discourse and discourse strategies.

A Project of 
Volkswagen Foundation